Senate panel approves labeling for GM salmon

A genetically modified salmon seen next to a wild salmon. The fish are bio-engineered to grow twice as fast. (Photo courtesy Rep. Geran Tarr)

A genetically modified salmon seen next to a wild salmon. The fish are bio-engineered to grow twice as fast. (Photo courtesy Rep. Geran Tarr)

A U.S. Senate panel yesterday moved to require labeling for genetically modified salmon, if it’s approved for sale in this country.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski told the Senate Appropriations Committee she hopes the FDA never allows genetically modified salmon to reach supermarket shelves.

“But we haven’t been able to get the FDA able to slow down off their track of approval,” she said.

So, Murkowski says, they should at least require “that they put on the package of fish: This is a genetically modified salmon.”

But mandatory labeling repels senators from farm states, who fear it’ll lead to labeling of GM crops. Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska defended genetically modified food at the hearing, saying it can help sustain the world’s ever-growing population.  Johanns says labeling would be a compliance nightmare, with consumers footing the bill.

“There’s a cost to that, for no basis in science,” he said.

The company that wants to produce the AquAdvantage salmon says its farmed fish would be just like a conventional Atlantic salmon. Sen. Mark Begich, who co-sponsored Murkowski’s labeling amendment, says the company should just be upfront with consumers.

“If their fish product is so good, then tell us,” he said. “That’s all we’re asking.”

Appropriations Committee passed the amendment on a voice vote with only one audible “nay.” Still, it’s a long way from law. Alaska’s delegation to Congress has fought to require labeling in the past, only to see it stripped out of the final legislation. The bill next goes to the full Senate.

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